“Growth…Improvement…these are key words in today’s antiques economy,” reported Jeff Jeffers, CEO & principal auctioneer of Garth’s Auctions in Delaware, Ohio, regarding the results for Garth’s May 20-21 Americana auction (which featured the Fifth Annual Ohio Valley session). Sales for this yearly event have been on the rise each year, drawing impressive crowds. Serendipitously timed near the end of Ohio Decorative Arts Center's "Equal in Goodness: Ohio Decorative Arts 1788 - 1860," a special exhibit sponsored by Garth's and guest-curated by Garth's VP Andrew Richmond, this spring's auction offered an opportunity for celebration as well as acquisition of all things Ohio.
The highlight of the Ohio folk art included eleven works by Columbus artist Elijah Pierce, the son of a former slave, whose work ranges from the religious to the secular (showing his interests in politics, sports, and African-American history). However, the religious plaques drew the top bids in this auction. Tremendous interest in lot 10, a 1966 work titled Jesus and the Angels, ensured that the phones were packed and bidding paddles were in the air early in the first session. Measuring 28 1/2"h. x 15"w., the relief carved plaque of Jesus surrounded by clouds and angels and, what appeared to be the 12 disciples, retained the original, vibrant polychrome painted surface and carried an estimate of $18,000-22,000. It sold to a phone bidder for $24,675. Lot 74, another Biblical plaque by Pierce estimated at $8,000-12,000, was inscribed with Psalms 46:1, and also sold to the phones - doubling its mean estimate - for $21,150.
Other categories of folk art showed strong prices throughout the two-day event including weathervanes. Lot 201, a 44” long American copper quill with the original gilding prompted fierce competition and a price of $7,050, while a full-bodied cow vane with a zinc head realized $5,288. Two running horse weathervanes, each with zinc heads, were estimated at $800-1,600 and $600-1,200, respectively, but they exceeded all expectations racing across the block for $3,760 and $3,055. A more unexpected weathervane in the form of a grasshopper was a favorite among the Garth’s staff. It garnered a smaller final price at $764, but it promoted big smiles in the sales room. A sheet metal trade sign from a Kansas haberdashery in the form of a bust of a man wearing a wide brim hat delighted the crowd selling for $2,703 versus an estimate of $600-1,200.
Carved items of all sorts brought robust bids. A beaver-form ice-fishing decoy with moving tail, which in recent weeks traveled to a local elementary school as part of Garth’s educational outreach programs, encouraged interest from young and old alike. But, as Amelia Jeffers noted, “At the end of the day, whether the enthusiasm is in the eyes of a 70 year old chasing a ditty box in the auction, or a 7 year old oohing over an ice fishing lure, their enthusiasm is infectious - and, my favorite part of the job.” The 9 ½” long decoy sold for an outstanding $1,528 against an estimate of $300-600. The small scrimshaw ditty box fashioned in the form of a traditional Shaker pantry box made $2,585, and the successful buyer exited the salesroom all smiles. Lot 98, a 24” long walnut kraut or slaw cutter, carved with a heart cut-out and applied turnings had a provenance from dealer Bill Samaha (Ohio/Massachusetts) and sold for $1,410. Six fine burl bowls of varying sizes were offered with prices ranging from $823 to $1,528 to $3,525.
Furniture from the diminutive to the more monumental performed strongly as well. Lot 30, a miniature Sheraton chest of drawers sold for $6,228 to a phone bidder against an estimate of $1,000-2,000. Several pieces of child-size furniture fetched sizeable prices including a Shaker armchair for $1,998, a settle bench for $1,528, and two stepback cupboards for $705 and $558.
Of the items of furniture consigned bearing the Henderson family provenance, a one-piece cherry and poplar cupboard, possibly by Richard Rood of Marietta, Ohio, ca.1830, brought the biggest price at $16,450. The stately 98 1/2" high cupboard was likely made about the same time as the walnut bookcase still at Henderson Hall, which is operated as a museum purportedly containing most everything the family ever used. Both cupboards would have originally stood at the family's Willow Island plantation until moving to Henderson Hall.
The Ohio River Valley Windsor settee which also descended in the Henderson family had a lovely shaped crest, bamboo-turned legs and stretchers, and old black paint over an earlier green. Despite minor imperfections, the 76" long settee reached $2,820. The Henderson family items carried pre-sale estimates of approximately $5,000-9,000, but the total hammer prices reached about $25,000. Happily many of the items are going back to the same area where they were cherished for generations. These results prove that provenance is a huge factor, and, more importantly, that Ohio Valley material is becoming as desirable as material from other regions. The bookcase was quite large and one piece, which normally makes the item in question a tough sell, but not this time!
The painted furniture included a decorated wardrobe (or schrank) from Bluffton, Allen and Hancock Counties, Ohio, circa 1860. The vibrant, one-piece, estimated at $2,500-5,000, sold for $6,345 thanks to the original faux mahogany graining, green trim, and star decoration on the door. A painted cupboard from Northern Indiana, dated 1895 and decorated with black and red paint with gold stenciling, included embellishments of birds. The two-piece, stepback cupboard, sold within estimate for $7,050. A beautiful curly maple and poplar corner cupboard was not among the highly sought after painted objects, but it was just as appealing and luminous selling for $10,281.
With an enthusiastic crowd browsing in the saleroom, the sun shone on the Saturday morning session and found many anticipating lot 394, a silk and metal on linen sampler by Elizabeth King of Essex County, Massachusetts, 1765. The first lot to sell, the sampler opened the auction with a brisk pace, starting at $4,750. There was frenzied bidding on the floor and from the eleven active phone lines before the sampler sold for $14,100 to a phone bidder. Of the 19 other samplers from locations such as Ohio, Kentucky, and New England sold throughout the weekend, a Kentucky sampler sold for $2,115 and lot 153, a group of three Virginia marking samplers, ironically all related to Henderson Hall, one of the most northern examples of a slave-owning plantation (which as mentioned previously contains 200 years of family papers and possessions), sold for $5,581 and the trio will be going to the Henderson Hall Museum in West Virginia. Well-known dealer Dana Tillou, a long time Garth’s customer who is celebrating his 50th anniversary of buying & selling antiques, describ
ed his choice to attend the sale saying, “This auction has some great collections and a wonderful cross section of items, there is something for everyone! The auction yesterday was extremely well run & organized! It was a great day and I’m back for more!” As a strong buyer throughout the sale, Tillou took home 22 lots.
Other items of interest included oil paintings by Clyde Singer titled Campus Queen and Girls Hailing A Taxi ,which sold for $7,230 and $6,463, respectively. A pastel portrait of a horse by Ohio/Indiana artist Henry Dousa made $4,700, while a landscape drawing by Ohio/Pennsylvania artist Ferdinand Brader sold above estimate for $8,225. Of the two works by Ohio artist Alice Schille, the oil on canvas of a lady in a Spanish costume sold for $5,724. A scene of men working in a foundry by Sylvester Benjamin Shiley was one of several foundry scenes by various artists in the sale, but this example was simply outstanding and sold for $5,875.
Comprised of over 800 lots, the sale was described by Garth’s Jeff Jeffers to have been “some great old country furniture, together with some great old auction bidding…it made for a fun and satisfying two days for buyers and sellers alike.” This was a sentiment confirmed by many attendees like Roberta Powell who exclaimed, "I came to Garth's to see my stuff sell, I was so excited. I have been a buyer and now a seller at Garth's. It has been a lot of fun."
For further information about this auction, contact Garth’s at 740-362-4771 or visit www.garths.com. Garth’s upcoming auctions include the August 5th Eclectic sale, the August 6th auction of Fine Art and Asian & Continental Furniture and Decorative Arts, and the Annual Labor Day weekend Americana auction on September 2-3.
All prices included the 17.5 % buyer’s premium.